Book Writing Tutorial 4 - Point of View

 

Book Writing Tutorial 4 - Point of View


Let’s begin with a brief summary of what we have done so far. 

In Book writing 1, we looked at the preliminaries that the new writer must consider before she or he begins to write. In Book writing 2, we focused on writing non-fiction. We looked at types of non-fiction, word count and an outline for a non-fiction book.  In the third writing tutorial, we focused on organising the content of a non-fiction book and in Book Writing Tutorial 4 - Point of View,  we help you to select your point of view for your book.

After going through the previous three tutorials, you should have a sense of what your book will be about. Now that you know what you want to say, how do you say it?

Point of view

Your point of view is the perspective from which you tell your story. You may tell your story from a first person, second person or third person point of view. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction you will choose a point of view from which to tell your story. 

First person point of view

To write from a first person point of view, you start from the position of the "I". You tell your story seemingly bringing an inside perspective to your story telling. You seem to have first-hand knowledge of events. You invite the reader into your story world which creates a sense of connection between you and the reader..

You may choose to tell your story using the first person present tense. For example:

I wake up to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on my galvanized zinc roof and on the brown earth outside my window. The thought of scrunching through mud again does not excite me so I snuggle under my warm blanket and allow pleasant thoughts to waft through my mind. But the business of the day that awaits me will not allow me to rest. I roll out of bed and plant my feet on the cold concrete floor. What has to be done has to be done…

Or, you may choose to write in the past tense, which is the tense used in most books. For example:

I woke up to the sound of rain that pitter-pattered on my galvanized zinc roof and on the brown earth outside my window. The thought of scrunching through mud again did not excite me so I snuggled under my warm blanket and allowed pleasant thoughts to waft through my mind. But the business of the day that awaited me would not allow me to rest. I rolled out of bed and planted my feet on the cold concrete floor. What had to be done had to be done…

Being creative with point of view

Although books written using the first person point of view often use the first person singular to tell the stories i.e. the "I", I violated this rule by writing my book, Investing In Our Success: A glimpse into our world by using, for the most part, the first person plural i.e. "we", "our" and "us". For example:

"...Some of us smile. We smile smugly when we examine the experiences that we've had. We smile smugly because we've lived, and have been living charmed lives, not because of our backgrounds, but in spite of them. We've not wanted for much. We've always had benefactors who've been providing for us. Our journey to our version of success is bound up with their continued provision. We are confident that this provision will continue, so we skip blithely along the road as we continue on our journey to our version of success, thumbing our noses at the stragglers that we meet along the way on our journey. "If we can do it, why can’t  they?" we ask. "They are sitting on their gold mines, and don't know it...." (Investing In Our Success... p. 21)

Second person point of view

Here you construct your story by using "you" and "your" as the perspective from which to tell the story. The writer directly addresses the reader. Many motivational books use this format. For example:

You are broken down and distressed and believe that all hope is lost and are ready to throw in the towel. Wait! Not so fast! You still have your best life to live. Keep on reading and I will give you the five secrets to overcoming the roadblocks in your life. Once you have learnt about these secrets, your life will not be the same again…

Sounds like a familiar infomercial? Yes. The creators of infomercials make heavy use of the second person point of view in their work.

In fiction, this point of view is rarely used. But if you find a book written from the second person point of view, you will realise that the author has made you the protagonist in her or his story. For example:

...You walked through the dense foliage, taking care to stay on the foot path, your memory a reluctant guide. Tall, sharp, bladed, strands of grass stood on the dirt path that charted its tight course uphill. On reaching the peak of that hill, you had a spectacular 180 degree view of the village. You stood there for a moment, drinking in the view of your past, a past which invaded your present, inviting you to once again dwell in its glow...

Third person point of view

In using this point of view, you construct your story by using "he", "she" or "it" or, you use your character's name. This is the most popular point of view that writers use. For example:

She walked through the dense foliage, taking care to stay on the foot path, her memory a reluctant guide. Tall, sharp, bladed, strands of grass stood on the dirt path that charted its tight course uphill. On reaching the peak of that hill, she had a spectacular 180 degree view of the village. She stood there for a moment, drinking in the view of her past, a past which invaded her present, inviting her to once again dwell in its glow...

Third person omniscient

If you use this variant of the third person perspective, you tell your story as if you can see past, present and future and you know everything. This point of view was used by many novelists of the past but is said to be out of date in these modern times. As you noticed above, I incorporated a bit of the third person omniscient point of view in that paragraph.

This point of view is common in works of non-fiction, especially when the writer is an expert on her or his subject.

Points of view – Which should you use?

The choice of point of view in your writing is totally up to you. You choose one depending on your subject. I suggest that you read books in your area of interest to see how authors navigate the use of point of view in their work and take your cue from them.

Assignment

Using the first person point of view, write one paragraph  about a topic in which you are interested. Afterwards, write the same paragraph using the second person and third person perspectives. You may share them in the comments section below.

Conclusion

In Book Writing Tutorial 4 - Point of View, you learnt about the different points of view from which to write your story - whatever story you wish to write. After much trial and error, you will know which point of view works for you. Happy writing!

If you need additional help, leave a comment below or send us an email. Remember to click the subscribe button to get posts as soon as they are published.

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See you in Book Writing 5.

About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a teacher and author of three books. Her business is to write stories set in the place she knows best – Jamaica – while also helping writers to write their own stories. 

When you are ready to write your story, make contact with her @ writingwisdomtree@gmail.com. Check out her books here

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